Our culture, thankfully, is increasingly embracing the fact of diverse sexual and gender orientations. Yet everyone—gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, asexual, cis, straight—struggles with questions about identity. It’s easy to interpret the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness as meaning that sexual or gender identity is irrelevant. But that’s simply not true.
As Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara argued in her November 2015 Lion’s Roar teaching, identity may be empty, but it also forms the basis of how we act in the world. Intimately understanding both the personal and impermanent sides of identity is vital to practicing the Buddha’s teachings. Furthermore, writes O’Hara, Buddhist practice can help us deconstruct society’s narratives about who we are and who we should be.
Our feature series on Rainbow Dharma includes a collection of personal stories on LGBTIQ dharma. Read three of them right now:
How Far We’ve Come, by George Takei
In the extended online version of his print article, George Takei tells how Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hypocrisy compelled him to come out.
Counting to One, by Steve Silberman
Steve Silberman recalls early and lasting loves.
Getting to Ellen, by Ellen Krug
For Ellen Krug, a dharma teacher’s encouragement helped change everything.
Also from the November Shambhala Sun: read the extended online version of our Q&A with Senses Fail frontman Buddy Nielsen, in which the post-hardcore vocalist discusses how Buddhism helped him understand his sexuality.